AUBURN | Sophomore Rocky McCord was strong and a pair of three-run rallies helped Auburn earn an 8-2 win over Eastern Illinois on Sunday, which clinched a series win.
McCord was the story. His goal to become the Tigers' Sunday starter appeared off track during his first two outings of the season, which lasted a total of 5 1/3 innings and yielded six earned runs.
He was much sharper on Sunday. McCord held the Panthers scoreless during his six innings of work and conceded only three hits.
"It seemed like I had a five-inning curse; couldn't get past that fifth inning," said McCord, who struck out six batters Sunday. "It wasn't my best day. I didn't have my best stuff, but the defense played good and I finally got a win."
The strong outing provided some affirmation for coach John Pawlowski, who signed McCord out of Spanish Fort last year and made him a pitcher. He hit .408 as a senior infielder for the AHSAA Class 5A champs.
"Rocky certainly has the ability to go out there. He just got to continue to refine his skills and I thought he did a good job getting deeper into the game," Pawlowski said. "It's important for him, but obviously very important for our club and what we are trying to do."
The Tigers had only one hit until the fourth inning Sunday. That's when third baseman Damek Tomscha's double allowed Ryan Tella to score and give Auburn a 1-0 lead.
Second baseman Jordan Ebert extended his hit streak to nine games and fueled fifth- and sixth-inning rallies with singles.
"I'm just hooking it in right now," the freshman said. "I'm trying to help this team win games. It's a lot of fun. It's a fun way to start off my career."
The second baseman has been a revelation at the plate. His .424 batting average leads the team, which has impressed Pawlowski.
"We feel that we have a good core group of freshman baseball players here and he is one of them," Pawlowski said. "He has been very fortunate. He has gotten an early opportunity and he is taking advantage of it. He is very confident in his ability offensively and just loves to play the game."
Shortstop Dan Glevenyak and first baseman Garrett Cooper also finished with two hits apiece. Cooper led the team with two RBIs.
Auburn (8-3) resumes play Tuesday against Alabama in the Capital City Classic. Consecutive wins against Eastern Illinois helped the Tigers erase memories of their meltdown Friday night, which saw Pawlowski's team lose despite building a 7-1 lead in the fifth inning.
Victories on Saturday and Sunday have the players upbeat.
"Having momentum going into the Alabama game -- it's just awesome," Ebert said. "We want that game bad and to have a little momentum going into this is great for our team."